Can a Dead Person Sue You?

While you can’t get sued by a ghost, a dead person’s estate can sue you. The estate usually has the right to raise the same claims as if the deceased person was still living.

What happens to a legal claim when someone dies?

In most cases, a legal claim doesn’t go away upon a person’s death. Instead, the deceased person’s estate usually has the right to continue the claim.

For example, say you never repaid a $50,000 loan to someone before he died. If you had repaid that loan, the surviving family members would have $50,000 more in their inheritance. So they, through the deceased person’s estate, will usually maintain the right to sue you for the unpaid money.

The right to sue is generally considered part of the decedent’s assets. In some cases, the right to sue may be outside of the general estate. For example, if you were getting sued by a business whose owner died, the new owner of the business would generally have the right to continue the lawsuit on behalf of the business.

Who can sue you on behalf of a deceased person?

Most lawsuits brought on behalf of a deceased person will go through the decedent’s estate. Either the estate’s executor will find a lawyer, or the probate court will appoint one.

If you aren’t sure whether the person continuing a lawsuit against you has the right to do so, you can check the probate court records or ask a lawyer.

If you’re contacted by a personal injury lawyer, don’t assume that lawyer’s client has the legal right to sue you. While a lawyer ethically shouldn’t fraudulently sue you, there could be a dispute over who has the right to sue you or another legal reason why that person doesn’t have the right to sue you.

What are your rights to defend against a lawsuit brought by a deceased person?

If you’re sued by a deceased person’s estate, you generally have the same defenses as you would in any lawsuit.

First, you have the right to make sure the person who filed the lawsuit has standing. This is usually either the person you (allegedly) caused harm to or the proper representative of that person’s estate.

Next, you have the right to make sure the court has jurisdiction. For example, you can’t be sued in California if the law that applies to your case says you have to be sued in Nevada.

Finally, you have the right to argue that the defendant hasn’t met the legal burden of proof. Since a deceased person can’t testify in court, the estate will need to have other evidence to prove the claim. Courts don’t automatically accept a deceased person’s legal claim as true.

What about a wrongful death claim?

A wrongful death claim will usually be different than a legal claim that someone had before they died and wasn’t related to his or her death. A wrongful death lawsuit is usually brought on behalf of both the estate and individual family members.

The estate will usually be entitled to be reimbursed for any medical bills prior to death, pain and suffering, and similar damages. Family members may be entitled to seek compensation for the deceased person’s future earnings that would have benefited them, loss of consortium, and other damages.

In some states, a wrongful death lawsuit must be brought by the personal representative of the estate. In other states, a family member who is entitled to receive wrongful death compensation may be entitled to file a lawsuit directly.

Talk to an Attorney

If you’re being sued, you may want to talk to an attorney. Many will offer a free consultation.

You want to make sure that you’re being sued by the responsible party and that you’re aware of your possible defenses against the lawsuit.